Looking back over the last few months, I realise that I entered parenthood in a state of blissful ignorance. I had no concept at all of how much my life was about to change. The repercussions of creating a new human and bringing them into your life are vast.
Whilst I was pregnant, one of my colleagues, a mother of two, was very supportive and excited for me. When I saw her seven weeks after Reindeer’s arrival, she took one look at me and said: you wouldn’t have believed me if I’d tried to tell you. She was right, too. I wouldn’t have.
My expectation was that I’d feel emotional – drained but happy – and would have to make some adjustments to my leisure time.
I didn’t realise that I would no longer have leisure time. Or that emotional would cover all emotions, not just the nice, fluffy ones.
The reality is that for the 12-13 hours each day that Reindeer is active, I’m with him for almost every minute. I wake frequently during the night either to feed him, or just because he’s made a noise that has me checking he’s OK. My world has expanded – or shrunk, depending on your viewpoint – to encompass him as the primary focus of my life. As soon as he is asleep in the evenings I begin the chores that I just can’t leave until tomorrow, because then they will appear insurmountable and my mood will be increasingly stressed and depressed. After dinner I am too zoned out to do much of anything.
As you can imagine, this is having a huge impact on my mood. Worse still, I realised today, it is having a huge impact on my ability to communicate with my husband. I’m just too tired and confused to make sense of how I feel any more. It is only when something reaches crisis point that it finally makes it to the bit of my brain which is still functioning. Unfortunately, I’m unable to process it so, whatever it is, it comes out in tears and frustration.
This is massively unfair on both of us; but especially on my husband. He has no idea what to expect and I have lost the ability to test my thoughts, so he gets them raw. The thing with ‘say what you think’ is that humans have internal filters for a purpose. We are a species with the rare ability to reason. Failing to apply reason and saying what we think leads to far more upset and hurt than is intended or needed. I’ve always tried hard to be reasonable in my thinking; struggling to do this means I’m unintentionally hurting those I love the most.
Today I was battling with the thought of returning to work. I’d originally planned to take nine months of maternity leave. Naively I’d thought that I would be bored with a baby and looking forward to spending time with grown-ups and the challenges of my job by this point (lots of women at work told me this). The reality is that I’m dreading the return. Reindeer is so much more fun and challenging than I ever imagined and I don’t want to be away from him. Not just for the extra three months of maternity leave, but I want to cut down my hours at work too. As soon as I realised this, the stress started building. Financial worries, confidence worries, time worries, ability worries. It was like a mountain of stress. My husband returned home blissfully unaware that I was about to pop.
There was no anger, just a lot of tears and despair.
He told me that we should be doing this together. And he’s right, we should. It’s just that I can’t work out how to communicate any more. And the longer this goes on, the harder it is to know where to begin.
I’m working on it though. I want nothing more than to be able to communicate with my husband in the confident, easy way we had for over a decade before Reindeer arrived. After just five short months I don’t know how to get back to that.
I think this is what my friend meant: that the changes you experience will be many, they will occur in areas of your life that you thought were rock solid and, as a consequence, they will be damn hard to deal with.
And, until you’ve been there, you just can’t imagine it.